Alumna gives Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize Talk

Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize winner Dr Ellie Tanaka presents her photovoltaic research and public engagement work

School of Chemistry graduate Dr Ellie Tanaka recently won the 2022 Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize in recognition of her exceptional research accomplishments and contributions to the life of students in the School.

This week, staff and students at the School of Chemistry welcomed Ellie back to the Joseph Black Building for an award ceremony and her talk: "How to enjoy your PhD —a story of photovoltaic cells, science festivals and living abroad". Through her talk, Ellie acknowledged the many people who have supported her during her studies and gave encouragement to current students working towards a PhD. She also discussed details of research she conducted with during her studies, as well as lessons learned and advice for current students on how to enjoy their own PhD journeys. The talk was followed by a celebratory reception with students and staff.

The overall theme of Ellie’s PhD project was the development of post-generation photovoltaics, specifically dye-sensitised solar cells and perovskite solar cells as part of the Robertson group. During her time in Edinburgh, Ellie organised a number of public engagement initiatives, including activities for Science festivals around Scotland (see Year of the Periodic Table and The Solar Spark to find out more about Ellie’s project work). She also established national and international collaborations over the course of her research, forming new ties with research groups around the world.

Ellie Tanaka

It is a great honour and surprise for me to be selected for this year’s Fraser and Norma Stoddart Prize. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisor Prof Neil Robertson, public engagement coordinator Dr Jenny Bos, Dr Anna-Maria Maciejuk, as well as my colleagues, collaborators, friends and family who have each played a considerable role in this achievement. I would also like to acknowledge JASSO, the School of Chemistry and other funding organisations for their financial support during my time in Edinburgh.

Since graduation, I have moved back to Japan to take up a researcher position in Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation. With a fresh start in industry, the research and public engagement skills that I gained in Edinburgh have supported me in many ways to push through the challenges that arise from time to time. The award will always remind me to enjoy life and take big steps.


I am delighted to announce that this year’s recipient of the Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize is Ellie Tanaka, who did her PhD with Prof. Neil Robertson. Well done Ellie, and congratulations for your impressive achievements during your PhD!

Every year the decision on the Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD prize is made by a panel consisting of post-doctoral researchers/early career researchers, one from each section. I want to thank Dr. Ben Bhawal, Dr. Ilka Schmueser and Dr. Alvaro Etcheverry Berrios for being on the panel this year and assessing the applications.


Ellie was an outstanding research student, and showed great originality alongside her undoubted dedication and practical ability. As well as her research, she was also committed to public engagement and to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all students. She has always been an excellent ambassador for the School of Chemistry and I’m sure she will now thrive in the job she secured with Mitsubishi Chemicals.


Ellie Takana award final

The Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize

The annual Fraser and Norma Stoddart PhD Prize was established in 2013 by internationally renowned chemist Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart, who studied Chemistry with his wife Norma in Edinburgh in the 1960s. Sir Fraser Stoddart went on to share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 2016 for the design and synthesis of molecular machines. This prestigious prize honours PhD students who best remind us of the outstanding science, service and humanity that Fraser and Norma have brought to science.

Candidates are expected not only to have demonstrated superior research accomplishments throughout their time at Edinburgh but they should also have contributed to the life of students within the School of Chemistry and beyond.